The must-see exhibitions of 2020 — Europe

It’s been hard to keep track of which exhibitions have been cancelled, extended or postponed this year. So here’s our updated guide to the best shows for your diary, from Christo in Paris to Artemisia Gentileschi in London


Caravaggio-Bernini: Baroque in RomeRijksmuseum, Amsterdam Extended until 13 September 2020

This excellent show (first seen at the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna) looks at the beginnings of the European Baroque in Rome, focusing on works by the painter Caravaggio and the sculptor Bernini

Around 1600, Caravaggio developed his chiaroscuro style of painting, introducing intense drama and emotion through strong contrasts of light and dark. This is the starting point for a show that also includes magnificent works by his contemporaries, including Guido Reni and Artemisia Gentileschi. All visitors are now required to book an entry time when purchasing tickets in advance.


Giovanni Lorenzo Bernini, Medusa, circa 1638-1648. On loan from Musei Capitolini. Photo: Andrea Jemolo

Don’t miss… Bernini’s Medusa (circa 1638-48), a magnificent marble sculpture that captures the dramatic transformation of Medusa into a monster.

Kimono: Kyoto to CatwalkVictoria & Albert Museum, London 27 August to 25 October 2020

Europe’s first major exhibition of the kimono traces its sartorial and social significance from the 1660s to the present day, both in Japan and the rest of the world.

Kimono: Kyoto to Catwalk  brings together more than 300 works to present the ultimate symbol of Japan as a dynamic and constantly evolving icon of fashion. It includes rare 17th- and 18th-century kimonos never seen before in the UK, theatre costumes, and contemporary examples created by Yves Saint Laurent and Alexander McQueen, among others.


Fashionable brocade patterns of the Imperial Palace, woodblock print, made by Utagawa Kunisada, 1847-1852, Japan. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Don’t miss… an exquisite 17th-century portrait of Anna Elizabeth van Reede in a floral kimono by the Dutch painter Gerard Hoet.

Christo and Jeanne-Claude: Paris!Centre Pompidou, Paris Extended until 19 October 2020

The late Bulgarian-born artist Christo (1935-2020) is celebrated for the series of audacious sculptures, installations and public projects he created with his wife and collaborator Jeanne-Claude, the most famous of which involved covering the Reichstag in Berlin in fabric.

Next year it will be the turn of the Arc de Triomphe. The couple came up with the idea in 1962, but only now — nearly 60 years later — is it actually happening. In 2021, the monument on the Champs-Elysées will be enveloped in 25,000 square metres of silvery blue fabric made from recyclable polypropylene and 7,000 metres of red rope.

L’Arc de Triomphe, Wrapped  forms part of a major exhibition at the Pompidou, focusing on the couple’s work from their Paris period (1958-1964). It also features preparatory studies for their monumental public project, The Pont Neuf, Wrapped, 1975-1985. 


Christo, The Arc de Triumph (Project for Paris, Place de l'Etoile – Charles de Gaulle), Wrapped.  Collage in two parts, 2018. Pencil, charcoal, wax crayon, fabric, twine, enamel paint, photograph by Wolfgang Volz, hand-drawn map and tape. Photo: André Grossmann. © 2018 Christo

Don’t miss… Purple Store Front (1964), one of a series life-size structures assembled from the remnants of scrap heaps and demolished buildings. 

Andy WarholTate Modern, London Extended until 15 November 2020

Tate hasn’t staged a Warhol (1928-1987) exhibition for almost 20 years, but it has made up for it with this major retrospective charting the extraordinary life and work of the Pop art superstar.

The show explores his output through the lenses of sexuality, death, migration and religion to reveal how Warhol marked a whole period of cultural and social transformation.

There are more than 100 works on display, from his iconic Pop images of Marilyn Monroe, Coca-Cola and Campbell’s soup cans to lesser-known works exploring themes of desire, identity and belief. Among the star exhibits is the largest grouping of his 1975 Ladies and Gentlemen  series ever shown in the UK.


Andy Warhol (1928-1987), Debbie Harry, 1980. Private Collection of Phyllis and Jerome Lyle Rappaport 1961. © 2019 The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc / Artists Right Society (ARS), New York and DACS, London

Don’t miss… Sixty Last Suppers, 1986. An outstanding example from the artist’s great and final series of paintings, on view for the first time in Britain.

Lygia Clark: Painting as an Experimental Field, 1948-1958Guggenheim, Bilbao Until 25 October 2020

Born in 1920 in Belo Horizonte, Lygia Clark went on to become one of Brazil’s most important modern artists. For more than three decades, she created works that encouraged physical and sensorial encounters, challenging the traditional relationship between artist, object and viewer. 

To celebrate the 100th anniversary of her birth, this show re-examines Clark’s formative years from 1948 to 1958, a pivotal decade in which she fluctuated between figuration and geometric abstraction. It charts Clark’s stylistic evolution in three distinct chapters, addressing the most significant developments in her approach to form, colour and sense of order.


Lygia Clark, Untitled, 1952. Oil on canvas, 54.5 x 81.5 cm. Joâo Sattamini Collection, on loan to the Museu de Arte Contemporânea de Niterói © Cortesía Asociación Cultural ‘The World of Lygia Clark’ X.2019.187

Don’t miss… The mesmerising paintings Clark made between 1953 and 1956, in which she first challenged the spatial conventions of the two-dimensional surface. 

ArtemisiaNational Gallery, London 3 October 2020 to 24 January 2021

In 2018, London’s National Gallery acquired Artemisia Gentileschi’s Self-Portrait as Saint Catherine of Alexandriathe first painting by the great 17th-century artist to enter its collection. Two years on, it presents the first major exhibition of her work in the UK. 

Central to the long-awaited show of around 35 works will be a grouping of her best-known paintings and self-portraits, including Self-Portrait as a Lute Player. These and more recently discovered works will finally give the daughter of the more famous Orazio Gentileschi the recognition she deserves.


Self-Portrait as a Lute Player, about 1615-18. Wadsworth Atheneum, Hartford. Charles H. Schwartz Endowment Fund (2014.4.1). Photo © Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art, Hartford, Connecticut p.p1 {margin: 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px; font: 9.0px Arial; color: #393d41; background-color: #fffc80} span.s1 {font: 11.0px Arial; font-kerning: none} span.s2 {font-kerning: none}

Don’t miss... the recently restored Self-Portrait as Catherine of Alexandria, painted in around 1615-17, which alludes to Artemisia’s trial following her rape at the age of 17 by her painting teacher, Agostino Tassi.

Otobong Nkanga: There's No Such Thing as Solid GroundGropius Bau, Berlin Until 13 December 2020

For almost 20 years the Nigerian-born, Belgium-based artist Otobong Nkanga has explored the relationship between the human body and landscape. Her work also looks at notions of borders and ownership, politics of empire and environmental damage.

Last year, Nkanga was the Gropius Bau’s artist in residence. Now she returns with a solo show of multidisciplinary work that reflects on the tension between exploitative extraction processes and structures of care and repair. It will also examine the ways in which natural resources are subject to regional and cultural analysis.


Otobong Nkanga, Taste of a Stone, 2020. Site-specific installation, boulders, gneiss, granite, Iceland lichen, inkjet prints on limestone, marble pebbles, movements, plants. Installation view Otobong Nkanga:There's No Such Thing as Solid Ground, Gropius Bau, Berlin, 2020. © Otobong Nkanga, photo: Luca Giradini

Don’t miss... Taste of a Stone, above, a site-specific installation that is at once a landscape of historical and geological traces, and a space for social encounters.

Tracey Emin/Edvard Munch: The Loneliness of the SoulRoyal Academy, London 15 November 2020 to 28 February 2021

‘Not in a million years did I ever think that I’d show with my hero Munch… I’m lucky!’ Tracey Emin told The Art Newspaper  in 2019. ‘It’s everything I ever wanted as an artist.’ 

This major exhibition explores Emin’s enduring fascination with the Norwegian Expressionist, whom she has long regarded as a ‘friend in art’, and their shared preoccupation with the complexity of the human psyche. In doing so, it reveals the extent of Munch’s influence on Emin’s creative process — notably in Homage To Edvard Munch and All My Dead Children (1998). 

The film work opens with a naked Emin in a foetal position on the edge of Oslo Fjord in Asgardstrand, where Munch painted several of his most celebrated works, including Girls on the Bridge  and The Dance of Life

For Emin, being paired with Munch for the exhibition was like a dream. ‘I've been in love with this man since I was 18,’ she says.


Tracey Emin, It — didnt stop — I didnt stop, 2019. Acrylic on canvas. 152 x 183.5 x 3.7 cm. Photo © HV-studio Courtesy the Artist and Xavier Hufkens, Brussels

Don’t miss... It — didnt stop — I didnt stop (2019), a poignant nude executed in expressionistic brushstrokes and Emin’s signature palette of dusky blues and pinks.

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Lynette Yiadom-Boakye: Fly in League with the NightTate Britain, London 18 November 2020 to 9 May 2021

London-born Lynette Yiadom-Boakye is widely considered one of the most important figurative painters working today. She came to prominence with her mysterious, enigmatic portraits of fictitious people, which are conjured from a composite archive of found images and her own imagination. As such, her figures exist outside a specific time and place, allowing viewers to project their own interpretations. 

This solo exhibition brings together around 80 works that chart the artist’s distinctive style — notably her spontaneous brushstrokes, dislocation of subject and dusky palette contrasted with flashes of brightness — across almost two decades. 

It will also explore the central role of writing in Yiadom-Boakye’s practice. ‘I write about the things I can’t paint and paint the things I can’t write about,’ she once said.


Lynette Yiadom-Boakye, Condor and the Mole, 2011. Arts Council Collection, Southbank Centre, London. © Courtesy of Lynette Yiadom-Boakye

Don’t miss... Citrine by the Ounce (2014), an intriguing portrait of a man gazing downwards against a background plane of bright yellow, and Condor and The Mole (2011), above. ‘Although they are not real I think of them as people known to me,’ the artist has said of her subjects. ‘They are imbued with a power of their own; they have a resonance — something emphatic and otherworldly.’

Tetsumi Kudo — CultivationLouisiana Museum of Modern Art, Humlebæk, Denmark Until 10 January 2021

Inspired by the atomic destruction of his native Japan, the avant-garde artist Tetsumi Kudo (1935-1990) began making neon-coloured grotesque maquettes, which feature trapped plants, broken electronics and dismembered body parts. He called them his ‘new ecology’.

Kudo’s work has been largely forgotten since his premature death from cancer in 1990, but is being rediscovered as conversations about climate change and man’s impact on the natural world become increasingly pertinent.

The Louisiana in Denmark is currently showing 40 of Kudo’s cultivated environments — many under ultra-violet light for full, harrowing, radioactive impact.


Tetsumi Kudo, Pollution — Cultivation — New Ecology (Portrait of Ionesco), 1971. Mixed media. Louisiana Museum of Modern Art © Tetsumi Kudo Adagp, Paris 2020 / VISDA

Don’t miss… Kudo’s hothouses — ‘experimental gardens’ in which grow mutant eyes, brains, noses and penises, suggesting that new life can develop in spite of everything.

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